Radio host Kip Allen 'made you joyful when you were with him' - Albuquerque Journal

Radio host Kip Allen ‘made you joyful when you were with him’

Kip Allen, former KHFM-FM radio host, actor and University of Albuquerque theater teacher, looking pensive in a photo taken about 2010. Allen died in April after living for many years with Parkinson’s disease. (Courtesy of Roxanne Allen)

It was predawn dark on a day in November 2004, and I was at Albuquerque’s classical music radio station, KHFM-FM (95.5), then located at 4125 Carlisle Blvd. NE.

In those days, I was a reporter for The Albuquerque Tribune and I was working on a story about KHFM’s 50th anniversary.

As I sat quietly nearby, pen and notebook in hand, Kip Allen, at the time KHFM’s program director and morning-show host, spoke softly into the microphone “as if it were the ear of a wife he was waking with whispers.”

“Good morning. The time, five minutes before 6 o’clock. Time to join our birds.”

Recorded calls from geese and cranes at Bosque del Apache spilled out of radios in Albuquerque and other parts of the state, kicking off KHFM’s day back then, just as bird songs continue to do at the station now.

As the bird sounds receded on that 2004 morning, Allen’s soothing voice returned to the air waves.

“It’s Thursday morning. Veterans Day. You are tuned to ‘A Joyful Noise.’ ”

I noticed a tremor in Allen’s hand as he set some CDs aside. He noticed that I noticed.

“I’ve got Parkinson’s,” he said.

After many years of resisting the disease with style and courage, Allen died last month. He was 78.

Survivors included Roxanne, his wife of 56 years; their son, Jesse; daughter-in-law Irene; and grandchildren Ryan and Genevieve.

“Kip personified having a friend on the radio to drive along with you, or to be with you while you were making breakfast in the kitchen,” said Mike Langner, former KHFM general manager. “He had an amazing ability to make his humanness and spirit come out of the speaker. It was like having Uncle Kip there with an armload of records.”

Fun, silly, kind

Allen, whose father was in the U.S. foreign service, grew up in Virginia, Denmark and Ecuador. His mother was a painter, an accomplished flutist and also played cello and, later in life, jazz piano.

“My parents’ house, especially in Denmark, became sort of a meeting place for musicians and painters – Niels Bohr, the (Danish) physicist, was a friend of the family – and everyone would kind of just drop in,” Allen told me during an interview for a Tribune piece in 1991.

Roxanne, Allen’s wife, said famed cellist Pablo Casals wrote a musical piece for Allen’s mother.

But as a youngster, Allen himself was into rock music and played the drums.

“He knew every word to every ’50s rock ‘n’ roll song,” said Lindy Gold, former KHFM promotions director and Allen’s friend.

Allen received a bachelor’s in English literature from Swarthmore (Pa.) College and a master’s in theater from the University of California at Davis.

Roxanne met him at Swarthmore when they were both cast in a college theater production.

“His first words to me were, ‘Hi, there. I’m your husband,’ ” Roxanne said. He was referring to their roles in the play, but Roxanne said that at the time she was turned off by the remark. She got over it.

“He was fun,” she said. “He could be silly, but you knew there was more to him than that. He was kind.”

Kip Allen appears to be listening intently to companions in this 2022 photo. The former KHFM-FM radio is host is remembered by friends as someone who cared deeply about people. (Courtesy of Roxanne Allen)

The Allens moved to Albuquerque in 1973 and Kip taught theater at the University of Albuquerque from 1973 to 1983. He directed and acted in plays at U of A and also appeared in productions with the New Mexico Repertory Theatre.

One of his favorite roles was that of the vain and foolish Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a New Mexico Rep production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

“He had an incredible memory for lines of plays he did. Even late in life,” Roxanne said. “One of the last things he said in the hospital was from Shakespeare.”

Empty chair

Allen worked for KHFM for more than 20 years, leaving the station in 2008.

“I just knew every time I turned the radio on and Kip was on, I was going to enjoy the music,” Langner said. “He wasn’t about musical exercises, and he was not out to show you how much he knew. He wanted to play the music people enjoyed.”

He said the morning birds were Allen’s idea.

“He seemed to think it was a good idea, and the audience loved it,” Langner said.

Allen had a knack for connecting with others, even strangers.

“When we would do radio promotions and people he had never met came up to him, they were instant friends,” Langner said. “He just had a magnetic personality.”

David Oberg, who directed the late Chamber Orchestra of Albuquerque for 29 years, met Allen not long after Kip joined KHFM.

“Kip and I could talk about classical music at length, even though our backgrounds in the music were different,” Oberg said. “He cared deeply about people and art and how they intersected, how art affected people at a very deep level. He was an institution and we became friends. Kip and I and two other friends would have coffee every third Saturday. Now, there’s an empty chair.”

Gift of music

Gold said Allen had an impetuous and amusing nature.

“He would sing Irish drinking songs he knew,” she said. “Once when we were waiting to be seated at a restaurant, he broke into a soft shoe.”

She remembers fondly the April Fool’s Day programs Allen did at KHFM.

“He would play something by anyone who had done something funny,” she said. “One time he played a woman yodeling the classics – for three hours.”

Gold and Allen created and worked together on KHFM’s Music is Instrumental program, which urged listeners to donate unused but usable music instruments so they could be given to students who could not afford to purchase instruments.

“Kip really came alive doing something musical, something for the kids,” Gold said.

Pamela Chavez said Allen and Gold, seeking funds to repair some of those instruments, approached her when she was vice president of community and public relations at Wells Fargo.

“We were delighted to support such an amazing project,” she said. Chavez recalled the day the instruments were collected at the American Home Furniture parking lot at Carlisle and Menaul.

“KHFM listeners not only brought their instruments, but also incredible stories of their cherished pieces and their own musical backgrounds,” she said. “Kip’s gentle spirit, love of sharing music and sheer joy at watching the synergy shone throughout it all.”

A joyful life

Roxanne said that in recent years, even as Parkinson’s tightened its grip on his life, Kip enjoyed woodworking.

“He enjoyed putting oil on wood and seeing it come alive,” she said. “He was a regular at Lowe’s. He made dozens of cutting boards for friends. He made furniture.”

Oberg said that when his backyard gate fell apart, Allen turned up.

“He showed me how to do all these things, and we – mostly Kip – built my gate back.”

There will be a gathering celebrating Allen’s life at 6 p.m. June 12, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Go to for details.

“I will remember how gracefully and with good humor he handled his disease even as it progressed,” Oberg said.

Gold said Allen was much like his morning KHFM show, “A Joyful Noise.”

“I never ever saw him have a bad day,” she said. “Even when his Parkinson’s was advanced, he’d say, ‘I am not going to let it define who I am.’ He made you joyful when you were with him.”

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